Robocall runaround

Published on Thursday, 4 April 2019 17:58
Written by Easton Express Times

Does anyone answer the phone anymore? Even with caller ID? Even with the alleged firewall of a “Do Not Call” registration? Even with blockers offered by service providers or third parties?

The proliferation of robocalls and scam calls in the United States has long passed the level of mere annoyance. The unwanted invasions are a drag on the economy as well as an assault on one’s privacy and mental health. They’re also a PR problem for telemarketing firms that operate within the law. Automated calls that circumvent restrictions and calls that seek to defraud are crimes. They go unpunished, for the most part. Stated simply, scammers are able to stay several steps ahead of government regulators, or far removed in overseas havens.

The Federal Communications Commission received 4.5 million illegal robocall complaints in 2017, nearly tripling in three years. This is clearly a growth industry. Some experts say Americans will be besieged with more than 50 billion such calls this year.

So what can be done? Americans need a combination of public sector regulation and private sector technology to combat this inundation. Most counter-measures have been as effective as fly swatters against a plague of locusts.

Landlines have been reduced to voicemail filters for repetitive robocalls. Cell phones are becoming equally susceptible.

Last year the attorneys general of New Jersey and Pennsylvania joined colleagues from other states in asking the Federal Communications Commission to empower phone service providers to work together to block spoofed calls.

There’s only so much legislatures and state consumer enforcers can do. The FCC should be taking this battle to the trenches, requiring service providers to allow customers to block unwanted calls. This year half of all cell calls are expected to be spam robocalls. Government regulators and service providers should spend at least half as much energy and ingenuity as the impostors do in disrupting our lives and businesses.

-The Easton Express Times

Posted in New Britain Herald, Editorials on Thursday, 4 April 2019 17:58. Updated: Thursday, 4 April 2019 18:00.